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Collection Overview

Maxwell, John Grenfell, Sir, 1859-1929
Sir John Grenfell Maxwell Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
33 boxes and 18 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes 1-32; 1A


General Sir John Maxwell served in Egypt during the British Occupation, notably participating in the Battle at Omdurman during the reconquest of the Sudan, and in South Africa during the Boer War. In World War I Maxwell returned to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal and briefly served in Ireland after the Sinn Fein Rebellion. Consists of Maxwell's diaries, correspondence, documents, photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, printed matter and newspaper clippings.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of Maxwell's diaries (1896, 1898, 1907, 1917-1919, 1920, 1923), correspondence, documents, photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, printed matter, and newspaper clippings. The collection contains correspondence with and photographs of leaders in government, society, the nobility, and the army, including Lord Kitchener and the Duke of Connaught, as well as with leading Egyptologists. Maxwell served in Egypt during the British Occupation, notably participating in the Battle at Omdurman during the reconquest of the Sudan, and in South Africa during the Boer War. In World War I Maxwell returned to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal and briefly served in Ireland after the Sinn Fein Rebellion. The collection includes World War I discussions of the Senussi threat and the failure at Gallipoli, as well as photographs of places where Maxwell served. In addition, there are Sir George Arthur's notes for a biography, and the correspondence and commonplace books of Maxwell's wife, Lady Louise Selina Maxwell.

Collection Creator Biography:

Maxwell, John Grenfell, Sir, 1859-1929

"The name of Sir John Maxwell is closely linked, first with the resuscitation of Egypt during the past half-century, and, secondly, with the Sinn Fein outbreak in Dublin in the war. Among the first of British officers to enter the Egyptian service, he was all but the last of his generation to leave that Army, after its reconstitution under British tutelage. From 1882 to 1899 he witnessed the whole reorganisation and training of those forces which finally undertook the reconquest of the Sudan. From Tel-el-Kebir to Omdurman he formed part of the machinery which attained this great result. Then later he returned to command the British garrison. Finally, at the outbreak of the war, he was sent to Cairo to protect the Nile Valley against invasion from east and west. Maxwell returned home from Egypt in March, 1916." The Weekly Irish Times (March 2, 1929)

"His tenure of office in Ireland was remarkable for the firm measures which he took against the rebel leaders. His action in executing a number of them caused him to be the subject of an attack in the House of Commons, led by Mr. John Redmond, the Home Rule leader." The Daily Express (February 22, 1929)

A chronological outline and brief biographical account of major events in the life of General Sir John Grenfell Maxwell (1859-1929), general, president of the Egypt Exploration Society, taken from various biographies and obituary notices:

1879 Commissioned in the 42nd Royal Highland Foot Brigade, later known as "1st Battalion, the Black Watch" 1882-1900 The 42nd Foot is engaged in Egypt as part of the Army of Occupation 1882 Battle at Tel-el-Kebir; Maxwell accompanies Lord Wolseley on an attempt to relieve General Gordon 1883-1885 British officers reorganize the Khedive of Egypt's forces; Maxwell becomes staff captain in the Egyptian Military Police 1884-1885 Maxwell serves in the Nile Campaign as Headquarters Camp Commandant and Provost-Marshal; Sir Francis Grenfell, the Sirdar, takes Maxwell on his personal staff and Maxwell receives the D.S.O. for his participation in the action at Giniss 1885-1889 Continues serving the Sirdar as A.D.C. and A.M.S. during the Sudan frontier operations 1892 Marries Louise Selina Bonynge 1896-1898 Serves as A.M.S. under Lord Kitchener in the reconquest of the Sudan, commanding the 3rd Egyptian Brigade at Firket, the 1st Egyptian Brigade at Atbara, and the 2nd Egyptian Brigade at Omdurman, for which he received thanks from both Houses of Parliament and a brevet-colonelcy 1897 Appointed Governor of Nubia 1898 Appointed Governor of Omdurman 1900-1902 Commands the 14th Brigade in the South African War, on Lord Roberts' march to Pretoria; appointed Military Governor of Pretoria and the Western Transvaal (1900); received the K.C.B. and the C.M.G. for his services 1902 Nominated Chief Staff Officer of the Third Army Corps in Ireland 1904-1908 Serves with the Duke of Connaught in Ireland, London, and Malta 1904 The Duke of Connaught, as Inspector General to the Forces, selects Maxwell as his C.S.O. 1907 The Duke of Connaught is nominated Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean and appoints Maxwell Major-General, General Staff 1908-1912 G.O.C. in Egypt 1914-1916 The Great War; Maxwell returns to Egypt as commander of the British troops; for this service to the allies he receives foreign honors and is given the K.C.M.G. 1914 Appointed Colonel of the Royal Highlanders; commences a passive defense of the Suez Canal 1915 The Suez Canal is attacked by Turkey and successfully defended 1916 Faces the Senussi threat 1916 During World War I, Irish revolutionaries declare their independence and seize Dublin; Maxwell is appointed Commander-in-Chief, Military Governor of Ireland shortly after, and crushes the rebellion for which he gains the name "Bloody Maxwell" 1916-1919 Promoted to G.C.B. and appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Command at York; occupied in the training of recruits 1919 Promoted full general 1920 Participates in Lord Milner's mission to Egypt 1922 Retires 1923 Travels to Luxor to view the tomb of Tutankhamen 1929 Dies at Cape Town (February 20)

Collection History


The collection was a gift to the Department in 1967 by Maxwell's daughter, Philae Maxwell Carver, widow of Clifford N. Carver, Princeton Class of 1913. Additions made since then were gifts of Maxwell's grandsons, John A. H. Carver, Class of 1943, Clifford Maxwell Carver, Class of 1943, and G. W. Douglas Carver, Class of 1945.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mia C. Kim in 1992. Finding aid written by Mia C. Kim in 1992.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Sir John Grenfell Maxwell Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
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Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes 1-32; 1A